United States v. Barraza-Lopez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-28-2011
  • Case #: 10-50280
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Harry Pregerson, Circuit Judges Fisher and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

The Speedy Trial Act’s thirty-day window to file charges after an arrest does not bar charges that have been dropped without prejudice from later being refiled.

Barraza, a citizen of Mexico, was originally arrested in 2004 for public drunkenness and illegal entry to the United States. He escaped from federal custody and was once again arrested while trying to illegally enter the United States in 2007. He admitted that since last escaping he had returned to Mexico for several years and was illegally re-entering. Federal prosecutors had filed charges that cited only Barraza’s second illegal but mistakenly dated the arrest to 2008. The charges were dismissed and the prosecution refiled charges that cited his first entry, escaping federal custody, and refiled charges for the second entry with the correct date. Barraza filed a motion to dismiss the charges on his second entry under the Speedy Trial Act, as they were previously dismissed and a thirty-day window of opportunity to refile had already passed. The trial court denied his motion. Barraza plead guilty to all charges but reserved his right to appeal his motion to dismiss the second entry. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. They held that the thirty-day window to file charges from the time of arrest starts over when the charges are dismissed without prejudice. This interpretation of the Speedy Trial Act was consistent with other federal jurisdictions. Though the interpretation left open the possibility for abuse by prosecutors by allowing them to control the time required to file charges, the danger was balanced against,  “the interest in allowing the Government to proceed cautiously and deliberately before making a final decision to prosecute.” MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1 (1982). The courts may remedy this danger by dismissing the charges with prejudice.

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